One unfortunate fact of life for those of use who like Japanese
watches is that the most interesting models are often only sold in
Japan. There are internet resellers of Japanese models, but
you’ve then got warranty difficulties if service is ever required, as the
domestic service centers will require you to ship the watch back to
I bring this up because of the wonderful Citizen PMT56-2711 from the Promaster
line. This particular watch is no longer in production (though it’s still available here and there if you look hard enough), and has been
superseded by models adding radio synchronization and such (like the new Citizen Attesa). It’s an
analog quartz watch, solar-powered, with a blue face and titanium
case, and there’s something very elegant in its simplicity.
Things I like about this watch:
- Surface-hardened titanium case and band, trade name “Duratect”.
Almost impossible to scratch, and with the brushed finish, it yields a
subtle, low-key metal that’s quite attractive.
- Domed sapphire crystal. Again, almost impossible to scratch. The
interior has an anti-glare coating, which reduces reflections. The
doming also reduces reflections and makes it easier to read under water.
- Perpetual calendar. Although this makes for an involved setting
procedure, it’s nice not to have to worry about resetting the date at the end of some months.
- Eco-Drive. This is Citizen’s solar power technology. The face of the watch is a solar cell with a subtle hexagonal pattern
that also serves to add visual detail to the dial. The battery on
this one is good for five years, so even if you forget it in a drawer,
you’re unlikely to need to reset it!
- 200m water resistant (about 650 feet). Several people use this watch for SCUBA
diving; it’s more than enough for any use you’re likely to have.
- Travel friendly. Unlike most watches, you can change the
hour without stopping the watch. This is fantastic when traveling. You
pull out the crown, press the button while rotating the stem, and the hour
advances. I used this when going from the west coast to South
America, and I can testify to its usefulness. With other watches,
more than once I’ve set the local time wrong due to jet lag haze. Also
nice for accuracy fans, since the seconds and minutes are not affected.
- Power saving modes. This adds some personality to the watch, and makes it
fun to interact with. After a minute or two of darkness, the second
hand stops at 12 and stays there until light returns. Meanwhile,
the minute and hour hands continue to display the correct time. If light remains off for three days, all
the hands stop, only to spin to the correct time when you take it out
of the drawer. These makes the watch seem a bit more alive — more than
once, I extend my arm and watched the second hand wake up from falling asleep under
my coat. The watch will warn you if the battery was depleted far enough that it lost time.
- Luminosity. The face has large, clear markers with Luminova on
them, making it easy to read at night. The second hand is not
lumed, instead having a painted red tip. Perhaps they left the lume
off the second hand due to the power saving feature above (you only need lume in the dark, and in the dark, the second hand doesn’t move), but either
way I rarely need to see seconds in the dark, anyway.
- Readability. The face is a mixture of military style numbers (sans-serif, upright and distinct) with an aviator-style inverted triangle
at the 12 o’clock position. The hands are simple white with clean lines and contrast nicely against the blue dial. These, combined with the domed crystal, make for
a watch that can be read at a glance at a wide range of angles. Day
or night, no problem. The red-tipped second hand is a nice touch, too.
- Weight and size. The combination of 40mm size and titanium makes
this watch seem quite light when you pick it up. I’ve been wearing a
much heavier steel watch, but once I adapted, I quite like the
reduction in mass. You just don’t notice wearing it at all, even on
the matching metal (titanium) bracelet.
- The blue of the dial is gorgeous and unobtrusive. They
put the minute markers on the chapter ring, so there’s a nice balance
of empty space and text.
The only thing I dislike about the Citizen Promaster PMT56-2711 is that the setting procedure is complex, and it’s easy to screw it up. I
initially did the guy thing of “pull the stem and start
fiddling” which subsequently required 30 minutes to correct. You have to know the
time, date, month, and how many years since the last leap year to set it correctly. All of
this is done via the stem and a single button, with no LCD display! In its defense, this is something you should never have
to do, since the perpetual calendar is good until 2099.
Other things of note:
- The minute hand moves every 15 seconds. This is another power-saving feature, but kind of odd. Not sure what I think of it. I’m
used to mechanicals, where its always moving, ever-so-slowly.
- The style is quite adaptable. It’s legibility makes it good for
exercise, but the shape and low-key appearance mean that you can wear
it with a dress shirt and it looks great. It’s probably too sporty to be an ultra-formal watch, but the Promaster is appropriate for all occasions I need to be concerned with.
- It would be nice if it had a bezel to use for timing since the current one
is just dead, unused space.
Overall, I love this watch. It’s smaller than the current mega-size
craze, which initially took some getting used to, but is wonderful once you do.
It slips easily under a dress shirt, it’s tough enough to climb, dive, bike, or swim in, it’s readable anywhere, and it is well finished and detailed. Since it’s both discontinued and was never available in the US, it’s not easy to find, but there are still a few out there to be had if you know where to look, and well worth snatching up if you come across one.
By Paul Hubbard